I had waited on the street in front of Progress-Promise for Guru's car to arrive before going upstairs to the meditation hall. Ranjana was coming up the stairs just behind me.
"I hear that someone is going to get their name soon," she said. I turned in the stairwell. She had a twinkle in her eye.
"Don't say that," I said in a mock complaining voice. Ever since Guru had given Giribar his name a few months earlier I had been doing my best to keep a lid on my own rising expectations.
"Well, that's what I hear," Ranjana continued with a smile as she entered the girls' shoe room and went into the meditation hall.
Great! Now, instead of going in and having a good meditation, I was going to sit there obsessing about whether tonight was the night.
Ranjana was Guru's personal aid. Guru had a number of disciples -- men and women -- who served him directly in one capacity or another. But nobody was physically closer to Guru for more time than Ranjana and Lavanya (another female New York disciple).
Whether they liked it or not -- and I suspect the latter -- Ranjana's and Lavanya's names were as one. For disciples of my vintage, "Ranjana and Lavanya" rolled off the tongue much the same way "Bipin and Pulin" did. It was hard to think of one without the other. Though, unlike Bipin and Pulin, Ranjana and Lavanya didn't appear to be close friends.
Ranjana was tall and lean with a long mane of dark brown hair, which she usually wore in a single pony tail. She has sharp features and penetrating dark eyes. Her dark eyeliner accentuated her already severe appearance. Ranjana's celebrity lookalike would be a young, svelte Anjelica Huston (pictured above in Prizzi's Honor). It was easy to see why her physical presence alone intimidated so many disciples (men and women alike).
Ranjana always seemed fond of me though. Not that we had ever shared many words (if any). But I detected early on that she was a secret advocate of mine -- drawing Guru's attention to me from time to time. I felt naturally at ease with her. I guess that's why I wasn't surprised when Ranjana spoke to me in the stairwell that night.
As expected, I couldn't meditate once I was inside the meditation hall. Near the end of the function, Guru began calling disciples up to the stage. Everyone knew what was happening -- we'd all seen the drill before. Guru was going to give the people called to the stage their spiritual names.
One by one, Guru called more and more disciples up and with each one my nervousness and excitement grew exponentially. Soon, there were seven or eight people sitting on the stage in front of Guru. He started meditating. I hadn't been called up.
I'd blown it! My expectation had gotten the better of me. I figured that my consciousness must not have been good enough to get my name that night. If only Ranjana hadn't said anything to me beforehand, I thought.
After the names were handed out, there was prasad and then the function was over (the happy name recipients glowing with pride, their friends gathering around). On her way out, Ranjana didn't look at me directly, but the expression on her face made it clear that she felt bad.
As Guru made his way out of Progress-Promise, I saw Ranjana whispering something to him, which just raised my anxiety even higher. A moment later, Ranjana was by my side. "Guru hasn't forgotten," she confided. With that, she was off.